Naval War Games

War Games played at the Nicholas Naval academy, St. Petersburg, the idea being a War between Russia and Japan.

The first game was played in 1896, the forces of both sides being as on December 13th, 1895. The result was the complete defeat of the Russian Fleet. The conclusions arrived at are of no importance.

The next game was played in 1900, Rear Admirals Rozhestvenski and Skruidlov taking part in it. The game was not finished. Owing to the conditions prevailing at the time the deductions have no importance, except perhaps to show the ignorance displayed regarding strategy generally.

In 1902-03, the subject was set by the Minister of Marine. "War between Russia and Japan in 1905"-i.e., the year when the 1898 building program should have materialized. Admiral Rozhestvenski took a leading part in the game. Japan was to open operations without a declaration of war. Reinforcements could not be expected from the Mediterranean and Baltic.

The distribution of the Russian forces was: at Port Arthur-10 battleships, 13 cruisers, 36 destroyers and 24 torpedo-boats; at Vladivostok-4 cruisers.

Owing to war breaking out so suddenly the Russian vessels in foreign ports were disarmed.

A cruiser and a gunboat were at Chemulpo. The telegram sent to recall them having to pass partly over Japanese line was not received, but destroyers sent off at the same time arrived in time to bring them back.

The Russian main body was concentrated behind the mole in Talien Bay; the approaches to Dalny were mined. The Japanese main fleet approached Port Arthur by night, and sent in destroyers, but they found no ships there and were destroyed by the Russian destroyers in the roadstead.

The next morning a naval action was fought in Talien Bay; the Japanese lost two-thirds of their battleships, and the Russians half of theirs. The Japanese withdrew and the Russians gave chase. Two days later an action took place off Quelpart. All the Japanese ships were put out of action in 2 1/2 hours, while the Russians lost three battleships, three cruisers and seven destroyers.

After this action the Russian fleet divided up. Part proceeded to Port Arthur, while the other part which made for Vladivostok for repairs was destroyed in the Korean Strait by the combined forces of the Japanese Fleet.

Attempts of the Russian cruisers to prevent the Japanese Army landing in Korea resulted in the sinking of a large number of the cruisers, after which the transport of Japanese troops continued without interference.

The umpire's decision was shortly as follows:- Highly important to gain command of the sea early in the war. Consequently must have on the spot forces superior to the Japanese. Such will be the case in 1905. Our Pacific Squadron must be increased. The main body of our fleet must not be confined inside Port Arthur, since the entrance is narrow and could easily be blocked. A still worse position is Dalny, since it has no fortifications. Incomparably the best anchorage for the fleet is Vladivostok. Our squadron ought to be at Vladivostok during peace. The disadvantage of Vladivostok is the ice.

The most convenient position for our fleet would be somewhere in South Korea, such as Alexeiev roadstead, Chikhacher or Vladimir Monomakh, Masampho. The issue of a general action would then have to be decided before the Japanese could transport any troops. But our fleet could hardly be expected to reach Masampho without an action with the Japanese. Our fleet should, as soon as it is ready, put to sea, and steer for the Korean Strait and engage the enemy, or if possible avoid him and take up a position near Masampho, and remain ready to move out to fight a general action when desired.

The deductions to be drawn from the different war games may be summarized thus:-

(1) The insufficiency of our naval forces in the Pacific.
(2) Insufficient equipment of our bases: Port Arthur and Vladivostok.
(3) Necessity of fighting preparation of the squadron instead of its lying in reserve at Port Arthur and Vladivostok.
(4) Probability of a sudden declaration of war.
(5) Warning stationnaires in Korean and Chinese ports of opening of hostilities by telegrams alone not sufficient.
(6) Danger of anchoring vessels in Port Arthur outer anchorage; necessity of preparing booms against torpedo attacks.
(7) Possibility of enemy sinking transports at only entrance of Port Arthur.
(8) Impossibility of leaving Dalny with all its workshops undefended.
(9) Impossibility of Dalny as a base owing to its defenselessness.
(10) Impossibility of Port Arthur as a base owing to its insufficient equipment.
(11) Necessity of an intermediate base at Masampho.
(12) The only possible place for the main base of operations of the Pacific Squadron-Vladivostok.

The last deduction fully accords with a resolution come to by a Special Conference which assembled under the Presidency of the Grand Duke General-Admiral Alexis Alexandrovich in 1886, and approved by the Emperor, "henceforth not to seek for any other bases for the Pacific Fleet either in the Japan Sea or elsewhere, but to devote all attention to the thorough equipment of Vladivostok."

None of the above deductions, which the bitter truth of 1904 proved correct, were made use of. They were only filed as interesting material for records.

Source: Far Eastern Staff Plans of Naval Operations, 1901-3